North Yorkshire’s rugged coastline is an eclectic mix of dramatic cliffs, sheltered bays and idyllic coastal villages that combine to ensure everyone is catered for along this spectacular natural border of England’s largest county.
When the railway line linking two of the major towns along this coast was closed in 1965 due to the wielding of Beeching’s axe, the cinder track along the route remained; it is now a permissive right of way for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Cycling is the perfect way to explore the highlights of this shoreline. The 21.5-mile route (one way) can be completed in a day, allowing time for picnic stops, then stop for an overnight rest in atmospheric Whitby before retracing your wheel tracks the following day.
A 20-mile bike ride from Scarborough to Whitby along the North York Moors coastline.
1. Scarborough start
The route leaves Scarborough from behind the Sainsbury’s car park on Falsgrave Road about 300m west of the railway station (turn left out of the station) and is well signed.
2. Wyke wildlife
After about seven miles, the track arrives at Hayburn Wyke, where you can take a stroll to the secluded cove just below the Cleveland Way. Here you will have the chance to spot grey or common seals, before enjoying a drink at the 18th-century Hayburn Wyke Inn.
3. Clifftop village
Five miles further north is the ‘town that never was’. In late Victorian times there were great plans to develop the sleepy hamlet that is now Ravenscar into a thriving holiday hotspot to rival nearby Scarborough. Although some houses, the railway and a sewage system arrived, the development never progressed – perhaps due to the steep clamber down to its rocky beach – and Scarborough breathed a sigh of relief. I suspect Ravenscar did as well, and now the small village is the perfect spot for refreshments at Ravenscar Tearooms.
A short diversion from the cinder track along Bridge Holm Lane to the oddly named Boggle Hole is very worthwhile. The place is named after the bogles, or hobgoblins, that are rumoured to live in the caves along this coastline. You may not come across any bogles, but you will find a delightful wooded cove which is home to YHA Boggle Hole and its Quarterdeck Café, open to the public.
5. Smuggler’s cove
Further along the cinder track at the northern end of the bay is the old smugglers’ village of Robin Hood’s Bay. This charming and popular collection of quaint cottages (no dodgems or amusement arcades here) has several cafés and pubs to choose from, although some of them are at the bottom of the steep road leading to the lower part of the village near the beach. This will test your leg muscles cycling back to the top. Alternatively, pushing the bike back up might make sense.
6. Sleeper train
Just ahead of Whitby in the small village of Hawsker, bike hire is available at Trailways, which also offers self-catering accommodation in a converted railway carriage.
7. Two-day trail
Whitby lies at the northern end of the track, with a variety of cafés, pubs, hotels and guest houses, making it a great place to stay before returning the next day. The route has several refreshment stops, offering plenty of choice for a two-day ride.